Case Study

Thousand Oaks Visual Identity

As a personal project, I designed a visual identity for the City of Thousand Oaks.

Roman Mars Was Right

This project was inspired by Roman Mars’ TED Talk about poorly designed city flags. I promise, it’s much more interesting than the topic suggests. After watching, I looked up the Thousand Oaks flag only to discover it didn’t exist.

Mr. Mars makes many great points during his talk, but his ideas about flags being symbols of civic pride and unity really stuck with me.

Those points became painfully obvious two and a half years later when tragedy struck Thousand Oaks. In the course of 48 hours, the city was terrorized by a mass shooting and several devastating wild fires. In the aftermath, a heavy, shared grief hung over the community. American and California flags were everywhere. Social media was flooded with impromptu #TOstrong graphics. Those symbols of shared pride and unity became important grieving tools.

The city and its leadership did a great job dealing with such a terrible situation. For whatever part it would have played, I wish Thousand Oaks had its own established symbols which people could have rallied around.

Great Brand, Bad Visual Identity

Thousand Oaks has a great brand1. Opinions about the city are overwhelmingly positive and consistent. Common associations include: family friendly, safe, parks, neighborly, community, open space, clean, libraries, arts, and good weather.

Unfortunately, the city’s visual identity1 — consisting primarily of a logo – falls short in many areas. The official city logo consists of the city name and a nondescript oak tree graphic. The composition limits its applications, and it’s particularly ill-suited for small-scale rendering and digital iconography. There is nothing visually unique about the design, making it nearly indistinguishable from the hundreds of other oak tree themed logos in the area.

  1. There is an important distinction between brand and visual identity.

    Brand is the genuine, distilled, lasting impression someone has of you. I love Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ description: “Your brand is what other people say about you when you aren’t in the room.” That’s really it. Every experience they’ve had and story they’ve heard informs their understanding of your brand.

    Visual identity is the visual execution of your brand strategy. It is the decisions you’ve made about how your brand looks. Your logo, colors, typefaces, business cards, signage, product packaging, etc.

Core Elements





Gold Ring

Our warm climate and friendly, supportive community.

Star & Bar

Our connections to California and the United States.

Oak Leaf

Roble oak leaf for our name, trees, parks, and open spaces.


Buy A Shirt, Support A Good Cause

T-shirts featuring my Thousand Oaks logo can be purchased from The Bark Shop. Half the money we make from the site goes to groups making a difference in our local community. The other half goes to learning and creating new things.